Latest Zero Friction Cycling News – Ludicrous AF Episode!
Latest news 32 – Ludicrous AF Episode!!
Alrighty hold onto your hats for bit of deep dive into testing claims vs reality & Muc-Off, and how this should influence your decision re new Ludicrous AF until it is properly independently tested.
In this case to properly understand the concerns of the present, we need to take a little trip back into the past.
When I first started Zfc, I fully expected that their very expensive Nano chain lubricant would have been one of the first products for ZFC to stock. Holy batman did I get a shock re the test results, but then the subsequent investigation into the results, as well as soon after the marketing claims made by Muc-Off with Nano chain launch – led to believe – in my opinion – that Muc-Off’s behaviour re marketing vs reality were of EXTREME concern, more so than any other company.
Let’s take a little trip down memory lane first before I discuss Ludicrous AF as this history is very important re my hesitancy re anyone purchasing Ludicrous AF until ZFC has tested.
Nano Chain & lube launch
It must be about 3 years ago now that Muc-Off launched its new pre prepped race chains – NTC chain, to go with their top of line Nano Lubricant. The idea is one purchases a chain ultrasonically prepped with Nano lubricant, then you can continue the good times re-applying from your bottle of Nano lubricant. Nano lubricant was VERY expensive, similar pricing (a bit higher at launch) than Muc-Off.
Muc-Off released a very polished, could not lay it on any thicker 46 page brochure for NTC launch.
The launch caused quite a Kerfuffle as their test data had one of their key competitors – Ceramic Speed UFO – as losing over 10w loss in just 4 hours to start at just over 4w loss and finish over 14w loss. In a clean lab test. Print screen from NTC brochure below.
Outright efficiency Testing concerns
Alrighty if you have even a moderately functioning logic circuit running in thy ol noodle, you may think it startling that any lubricant could drop its performance by 10w in just 4 hours, in a CLEAN LAB test.
Any you would be right to ponder so.
Both logically and realistically, for pretty much any lubricant – they would need to head out into some very harsh contamination conditions to attain such a loss increase in such a time. It is not going to happen in such a short time in a clean lab test.
So how did Muc-Off get this result?
To save typing a stack on the technical side of outright efficiency testing – for a proper understanding please ensure you listen to deep dive nerd alert podcast on this topic – link here;
The shortest version I can muster for this doc is that efficiency testing is very difficult to get correct. You need a Full Tension Test machine (FTT machine) and a Full Load Test machine (FLT).
A FTT machine is set up like a track bike but the rear cog is pulled back by a weight. This has the same tension in top and bottom span of chain, unlike a track bike which will still only have tension in top span of chain from rider load.
When you have an accurate torque sensor on shafts at ring and cog end and measure the difference between them, you attain very accurate losses.
However – many lubricants (especially many waxes) need the resting or slackening time they receive through the bottom of the drivetrain for the lubricant layer to refresh.
As such FTT machine should be used for very short (30 second ish) runs to obtain an outright efficiency loss.
For tests running for longer periods (i.e hours) – chain needs to be moved to FLT machine – which is a machine set up same as a bicycle drivetrain, to run at an accurate load for X time, then moved back every 30 mins or hour to FTT machine for an accurate loss result recording.
What happens for a lot of lubricants if they are kept running on an FTT machine is you get a runaway efficiency loss increase as shown in the NTC launch brochure above.
This was proven by Jason Smith in Friction Facts days as he started with just an FTT machine, but after seeing such runaway results, and THEN noticing that after resting, the efficiency loss results returned back to original loss recording – he understood what was occurring, and thus the need for both machines. This has been re -proven many times since.
It was proven again after this launch as a) this occurred in muc-off testing, but they deleted the data for the second publication of the brochure – however CS captured the original data on first release showing it reset from day 1 to day 2 testing, and also they replicated the results by testing UFO just on the FTT machine vs the proper FTT / FLT protocol.
But things get more worrisome with Muc-Off testing…
What was of greater concern to me during all of this, is that Jason Smith was heavily involved in assisting Muc-Off build their test lab a long time ago when he was still independent friction facts, and this was a service he offered.
As such, Muc-Off have both an FTT and FLT machine, and one would suspect they know why they have both machines. They are very expensive machines. You don’t drop $25k USD on a machine you do not understand why you have it and how to use it, and lab is run by a PHD chemist.
Based both on a) the data capture of UFO efficiency loss reset and b) the replication of the result by CS running test of UFO for 4hrs just on FTT machine, it is my personal belief, and one I hold very strongly, is that;
- Muc-Off ran the test for ufo for 4 hours incorrectly on the FTT machine vs using FTT / FLT protocol.
- It is implausible that Muc-Off were not aware why they had an FTT & FLT machine (both are pictured in NTC brochure), and as such this was done deliberately to make a main competitor product look terrible.
- This behaviour is abhorrent. If true, and I personally believe it is, this is simply a flat out deliberate fudging of testing to show themselves as amazing, and main competitor terrible.
- Again – the above is not stated as fact, but is my personal opinion gained from reviewing information available. Further detail on this situation is covered in “manufacturer testing” document – instructions tab on ZFC website.
Muc-Off refused to answer any questions re the above in my emails to them at the time.
ZFC wear test protocol acts like a back check / wicket keeper to many other test lab claims
For many reasons ZFC went down a wear correlation path for my test protocol vs efficiency losses (again refer to nerd alert podcast to understand why, but in short until there is a governing standard – every lab would produce different results, and this not feasible for providing an accurate efficiency loss number).
ZFC using wear correlation protocol has proven invaluable re helping understand if a manufacturers testing claims hold water or not.
There is no getting around the wear rates. It flat out takes friction to abrade though the steel parts of chain at a prodigious rate. If you take a frictionless cloth and have at it on a piece of steel – you are not going to make much inroads re abrading it down. Take to same piece of steel with a bastard file, and you will quickly do some measurable wear.
In my testing (which is set up like FLT – it is run on an actual bicycle drivetrain) for the same period of time and at same 250w load for CS UFO, there is zero (ZERO) wear of chain. So where is 10w of loss coming from in Muc-Off testing? If there was a 10w loss increase, or a 5w, or a 2w loss increase – it would show up in my test with corresponding measurable wear. It is 2w, or 5w, or 10w of extra energy every articulation through top span of drivetrain, of which there are tens of thousands per minute – where that amount of energy would be going directly into wearing through the small metal components making up the chain.
So as a mini wrap 1,
- It is not logically feasible that there could be a 10w loss for a lubricant (any lubricant) in just 4 hours in a clean lab test.
- If such a loss did occur, in my test of same lubricant in same period, then measurable wear would show up in my testing.
- The loss results were able to be replicated by Jason Smith at CS, who pioneered need for both FTT & FLT machines in his Friction Facts days by running same test on just FTT machine.
- Muc-Off have both machines, and would absolutely understand why they have both, and how to run both, and what happens with many lubricants if you run a test for extended periods just on FTT machine.
- Doing so would have produced exactly the kind of terrible result for a competitor they would love to publish.
Join all those dots together, and you can form your own opinion regarding what most likely occurred with Muc-Offs NTC chain launch. You can believe that their testing was performed perfectly, and that UFO loses 10w in just 4 hours even if you are riding on your ergo, but strangely with zero wear to accompany that massive increase in friction. You can believe that Muc-Off accidentally stuffed up the test despite having paid a fortune to have both FTT & FLT machines and lab is run by a very qualified person. Or…. They deliberately fudged it.
To me the first two options and just not even remotely in the realms of logic. The only answer I am left with then is one that is of EXTREME CONCERN regarding this companies behaviour. In my opinion – not stating as fact.
Lastly – one other thing that is just bizarre but I think is still relevant to the above concern – Muc-off launched this 46 page brochure to lay it on as thick as any company has ever laid it on for a lubricant launch re the amazing performance of NTC averaging basically an amazingly low 4w for the 4hr test, and is obviously your number one pick for race chain, and yet on another page in the very same brochure showing test results for other lubricants, they have their own budget C3 dry lube at just 2.9w loss.
When one is presenting facts, ducks tend to line up in a row and not contradict each other. If facts are contradicting each other, one of them is not in fact factual.
If one is telling a story, sometimes an error in the plot occurs. Again, you decide what is most plausible – to me, having a 46 page brochure to launch NTC as the top race lubricant at an amazingly low 4w, and in same brochure it is smashed by their own budget lubricant at 2.9w- that just makes no Freaking sense. It is the most flashy dumpster fire of a launch brochure I have ever seen, unfortunately for those not working in this space nor allocating a lot of brain time and resources to go through – 99% who read Muc-Off’s flashy marketing believe it (at least they used to, I have been very very pleased to see a number of comments on articles / insta re people awaiting ZFC testing before they buy Ludicrous AF – so ZFC is making progress in saving drivetrains!!)
Screenshot below out of same brochure launching NTC at amazing 4w, but show C3 Dry lube at 2.9w – seriously – WTF… (and that’s not even talking about 2 other lubricants that came in lower than the lubricant the 46 page brochure is all about..)
How did Muc-Offs top two at the time (Nano and Team Sky Hydrodynamic) lubricants perform in ZFC testing?
I tested both of the above products BEFORE all this hoohaa in the early days of ZFC to see whether or not they would be top products ZFC should stock. I had honestly expected they would be, at the time – the above concerns re extreme dishonest behavior having occurred, the marketing just on the products for Nano lube – developed for Bradley Wiggins hour record (albeit – I contest it was not used for the hour record but that a wax & powder chain was…) – the products sounded pretty amazing.
To my surprise, both tested absolutely terribly. Nano and Hydrodynamic remain by far the two worst lubricants ever tested by ZFC.
Full data is on lubricant test page on ZFC website, but here is a bit of a snap shot.
Clean Block 1 of ZFC test.
Average wear rate of the top 5 lubricants tested to date is 0.5% of wear allowance. (Msw new formula, Silca Synergetic, Msw original formula, Silca Hot Melt, Ceramic Speed UFO drip v2)
Average wear rate of the top 5 drip lubricants tested to date is 3.9% of wear allowance (Silca Synergetic, Ceramic Speed UFO drip v2, Silca SS Drip, Tru-Tension Tungsten Race @ double application rate, Rock n Roll Gold)
Average wear rate of the 5 WORST lubricants tested to date NOT INCLUDING Muc -Off Hydrodynamic and Muc-Off Nano is 21.1% of wear allowance.
Wear rate for Muc-Off Hydrodynamic – 27.6%
Wear rate for Muc-Off Nano – ULTRASONICALLY APPLIED – 37.7%.
Dry Contamination Block 2 of ZFC test – abrasive contamination added multiple times during test block. (full test protocol on website)
Average wear rate of the top 5 lubricants tested to date is 2.6% of wear allowance (Msw new formula, Silca Hot Melt, Tru-Tension Tungsten Race @ double application rate, Ceramic Speed UFO drip v2, Silca SS drip)
Average wear rate of the top 5 drip lubricants tested to date is 7.5% of wear allowance (Tru-Tension Tungsten Race @ double application rate, Ceramic Speed UFO drip v2, Silca SS drip, Tru-Tension Tungsten All weather, Smoove)
Average wear rate of the 5 WORST lubricants tested to date NOT INCLUDING Muc -Off Hydrodynamic and Muc-Off Nano is 33.1% of wear allowance (Graphenwax, White Lightning Epic Ride, Wend Wax, Cyclestar Gold, Rock N Roll Gold)
Wear rate for Muc-Off Hydrodynamic – 98.9%
Wear rate for Muc-Off Nano – ULTRASONICALLY APPLIED – 107.7%.
So after just first 2 test blocks, hydrodynamic had used 126.6% of test wear allowance, and Nano had used 145.4% of its wear rate allowance.
Comparing to the top lubricants ever tested, which have continued through main test though clean block 3, wet contamination block 4, clean block 5, and extreme contamination block 6 – Silca Hot melt has reached end of block 6, having seen through an enormous amount more of harsh contamination thrown at it (Blocks 1 & 2 are just the warm really) using just 27.4% of its wear allowance, and mspeedwax new formula just 31.6%.
Compared to 126.6% and 145.4% – AFTER JUST THE FIRST TWO TEST BLOCKS
The top 2 drip lubes had used 98% of wear allowance by end of extreme contamination block 6 (UFO drip new formula) and 117% (Tru-Tension Tungsten All Weather).
Again – compare those results after 4 more test blocks, including 2 very harsh (one of them extreme) contamination test blocks, vs the two top Muc-Off lubricants which had absolute blown through wear rate by end of just block 2.
Observations during test when adding dry contamination in block 2 was that all of the contamination was completely absorbed by the lubricant turning it into liquid sandpaper in short order. Its clean block one results show products were terrible to begin with (in my opinion based on my peer reviewed, heavily employed by top manufacturers test protocol), but they demonstrated by far the greatest rate of drastically increasing how abrasive they became once contamination is added.
It puts this claim in NTC brochure under some scrutiny.
My strong personal belief is there is absolutely no way Team Sky used Hydrodynamic of Nano in any key racing. This is opinion only, but,
- I believe Muc-Off are well aware of the true performance of those lubricants
- I believe there is a difference between lubricants being “developed” for Team Sky / Bradley Wiggins and them actually being used by Team Sky.
- If I can ascertain such performance concerns in my testing, in all honestly, I believe Muc-Off would be well aware as well. They would know how to test properly when they want to.
- Such enormous wear rates as shown in ZFC testing clearly show the lubricants are abrading through steel at a prodigious rate. This flat out takes a lot of friction.
- It is hard to fathom that I am aware of this and Muc-Off are not, and that the team would still run those lubricants in anything other than training. If that.
- Again – above is my opinion and belief only based on ZFC testing and joining logical dots, it is not stated as fact. I just sure would be surprised.
One more concern before we get to Ludicrous AF…. Yep… they just keep on coming….
It is often asked “what is the best lubricant?” or “what makes the best lubricant?”
The answer to that is surprisingly long as it really depends on rider, where they ride, maintenance preferences etc etc – but as a general golden rule – since lubricating a chain is actually quite an extreme challenge due to it performing so much mechanical work completely exposed to contamination – generally lubricants that resist absorbing contamination outside the lab perform best in the real world (exception being traditional “dry” lubes like Muc-Off dry, finish line dry and similar as they contain so little actual lubricant in them).
This is why the ZFC leaderboard is topped by immersive waxes and chain coating type / wax lubricants because of their ability to having dust mostly just bounce off.
With a wet lubricant, it is a simple fact that any particle of contamination that hits the chain will stick on contact.
Wet lubricant claims of “it cleans as it lubes” – just – honestly – in short, No. What does one think is happening? Is the lubricant bi-polar? I will get continually more contaminated up until…..Now, and then start cleaning myself…..Now….
So lubricant claims of having detergent and other faffy mechanisms to magically clean as they lubricate – deary me.
Obviously once one has thought about things a little bit, it is orders of magnitude better to avoid absorbing a lot of contamination to begin with.
What would you prefer. An apparently top notch first aid kit so that when you are stabbed 10,000 times with a little shiv you can try and patch yourself up, or would you prefer to simply avoid being stabbed 10,000 times.
I think most would choose the latter. I would choose the latter.
This is the reason why lubricants that form a solid chain coating perform so, so much better in offroad conditions vs wet lubricants.
The average wear rate for the top 5 lubricants tested by ZFC in dry contamination block 2 is 2.6% of wear allowance.
The average wear rate for the top 5 wet lubricants tested to date in same block is 27.9%, spear headed currently by Silca Synergetic at 18.6%.
A big part of why Synergetic is currently on top is that so little lubricant is needed to provide excellent lubrication, that the chain is LESS WET than pretty much any other wet lubricant tested to date.
With chain lubricant you need lubricant INSIDE the chain. A wet lubricant outside the chain will obviously simply attract more contamination.
This is easy to test. Slather a bunch of grease or wet lube on some external parts of bike – say your pedal spindle between crank arm and pedal body. Does it stay clean, or get really black and messy really quickly. Trust me you will see the latter occur.
So, can we agree that having a lot of wet lubricant outside your chain is a bad idea. It is always a great idea when using wet lubricants that after application you wipe as much excess off the outside off chain as possible.
If it helps, it is not just me who believes (happy to state this as fact) this. This is accepted as pretty obvious approach for a bicycle chain lubricant by many major players in the field bringing top products to market. It will not have been immediately obvious / logical to many cyclists before as they don’t spend their time mentally analyzing this stuff, but hopefully the above helps bring some understanding, and really – this one is a pretty easy nut to crack.
For a number of their lubricants they market a UV light as the lubricant has particles that will light up under UV, so that you CAN ENSURE YOU HAVEN’T MISSED A SPOT……. ON THE OUTSIDE OF YOUR CHAIN……
This is a pretty darn terrible idea.
Again – most especially for a wet lubricant, you need to ensure lubricant is INSIDE the chain, and ensure to remove as much excess as possible from outside the chain where it will simply be a contamination magnet.
Pic below is of Synergetic Test at halfway mark at end of block 3;
Next pic is of Hydrodynamic at end of block 2 only (as it had ripped past wear rate allowance)
Again for reference, at end of block 3 (a further 1000km), Synergetic was at a total wear of 42.6% of wear rate allowance, Hydrodynamic was at 126.6% of wear rate allowance at end of block 2.
Again I would like to pose you a question….
Right – so I do not expect that the average cyclist is going to twig that Muc-Off’s marketing re ensuring all of the OUTSIDE of your chain in a wet lubricant is a bad idea.
I do expect much better from the many, many cycling journalists who reviewed this and advised it was not a gimmick. If you work in the industry reviewing lubricants and you didn’t twig to the above – well, you have some work to do if you want to start providing your readers with good information that will save them a lot of drivetrain wear.
You know who would ABSOLUTELY KNOW IT IS A FREAKIN terrible idea – a PHD chemist developing lubricants for use on a bicycle chain. Like the one/s Muc-Off have working for them.
Ok – so above is again not being stated as fact, but my personal opinion, but personally I find it beyond improbable that a phd chemist developing bicycle chain lubricants would think it is a good idea to ensure the OUTSIDE of chain is covered in a WET lubricant unless the part being used is only going to be used in sealed completely free of contamination clean room conditions.
Is it a great marketing gimmick to the many many cyclists who will not know better as they do not spend mental time thinking in this field, and look to manufacturers of lubricants to be telling them the truth on the marketing for the lubricants – yes it is. And yes it has worked, with oh so many unfortunately falling this marketing and rapidly destroying their drivetrain vs the top known lubricants that stay extremely clean.
History lesson complete
Okey dokey, sorry for 17 pages of lead up, but honestly Muc-Off are an extraordinary case re marketing vs reality to date, and behavior on many fronts to date again I can only state that they are of EXTREME CONCERN, not simply due to accuracy or test results / advice, but due to the fact that it seems improbable that they are not 100% aware of the fact that what they are marketing is a load of manure, and they are choosing making as much money as possible off the back of powerful marketing, truth be damned, we can sell the narrative we want.
If it caused no harm, I really wouldn’t care. But it does.
They show genuinely brilliant products that would save cyclists lot of drivetrain wear and running costs to be incorrectly terrible (in my opinion..).
They show their own lubricants to be amazing, however my wear rate testing has them as by far the HIGHEST DRIVETRAIN component wear rate lubricants ever tested, by a large margin.
Especially if running a higher end groupset, and especially if you do any offroad riding, the cost to run difference vs top know lubricants IS ENORMOUS.
Overall, the performance thus far of their top lubricants along with the marketing that simply could not be of more concern due to facts vs reality and their likely knowledge of deliberately misleading market (in my opinion not stated as fact) – again, Muc-Off have proven to be an extraordinary case in the bicycle lubricant industry space, and so are deserving of extraordinary attention on the concerns.
To Ludicrous AF….
Ok, so the actual commentary here will be the shortest section of this doc by far!
Honestly, the marketing is just more of the same formula always used by Muc-Off, with the exception that this time they omitted any major blunders like initially showing the efficiency loss reset for UFO on day 2 of testing which they quickly removed, and also not having any of their budget lubricants smashing the performance of their new race lubricant, in the same launch material for the new race lubricant.
Pls completely disregard the test results for Ceramic Speed UFO, it is assuredly (in my opinion) tested by running just on FTT machine – again go here to understand why this will produce erroneous results – https://open.spotify.com/episode/5kLrR16b9KpZL3cyhxW41d
Regarding the performance of Ludricrous AF outside of Muc-Offs clean lab – if I was me and it was my groupset, based on the absolutely horrendous results for Hydrodynamic and Nano – no way no how would I put that on a drivetrain I was going to actually ride / race until it has been tested by ZFC and results published.
I have ordered and will find a slot to test and release asap.
If you worry about me being biased against Muc-Off due to all of the above – please fear not.
I cannot stress enough – I have worked extremely hard to have ZFC as the most trusted and referenced INDEPENDENT test facility in the world. Nothing will compromise this. The absolute last action I would ever take is to report anything other than the factual test results. To do so could destroy, irrevocably, the reputation for cyclists and manufacturers using ZFC independent testing.
Testing results reported by ZFC must be of absolute integrity in every single test, or I do not have a business, simple as that.
Concerns on Muc-Off’s behaviour / culture do not factor at all in a product test. The only thing that matters is how does the product test.
If Ludicrous AF tests amazing and it is a product ZFC should stock, I will be on the blower in a new York minute to stock. Advice will still be avoid like the plague other Muc-off products yes absolutely you should be concerned about their possible (in my opinion 99.999999999% probable) behaviour – but, when it comes to lubricant choice – if Ludicrous AF is amazing – ZFC will recommend and look to stock – of that you can be assured.
When your business is to provide independent testing results of highest integrity – it will never, ever, ever be compromised – the test results will be what they will be, and they will be reported as such, and decisions / recommendations reported accordingly.
Simply based on the past however, I would personally steer well, well clear until tested and results released. But, its your drivetrain, if you believe after reading this to put your trust in Muc-Off for your race / drivetrain lifespan ahead of the products tested and proven by ZFC to be amazing – go for it, again – tis your drivetrain risk sending to an early death by abrasion.
Please forgive the no doubt myriad of typo mistakes, poor wording structure, grammar – I have typed this up in a hurry on my Sunday morning before ride, because I am already getting a huge amount of enquiries about what do I think, I haven’t proof read and will not get time to proof read as my inbox is pretty well exploded so I have one heck of Monday to plough into already, and as I mentioned – for many very concerning reasons – Muc-Off lubricant releases are a special case requiring urgent attention.
ZFC buyer beware rating for this product until tested – 11 out of 10…. Up there with putting your life savings into Bernie Madoff’s next investment scheme.. (the one he is launching from the grave..)… somewhere in that realm. I look forward to being proven wrong and this time Muc-Off has launched an amazing lubricant – but yep… for the love of your drivetrain and the above concerns / behaviour – pls wait… I will test and release test results as soon as I can.